Woman working in a food production plant.

6 Ways COVID-19 is changing the food and beverage industry

By | ERP, Food and Beverage | No Comments
Woman working in a food production plant.

The Food and Drug Administration is halting in-person inspections due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed extraordinary demands on us all. The massive scale combined with its sheer unpredictability make it challenging to respond. Industries around the world are having to adjust, whether to meet increasing demand or to temporarily suspend operations, the implications are dramatic. With rising infection rates, changes to the way we live, work and eat, and economic downturns, it is an unpredictable time for food and beverage companies.

Here are 6 ways COVID-19 is changing the food and beverage industry.

1. Food Habits, Shopping Shifts 

There are clear divisions in the food industry at present. Packaged food businesses and grocery chains are booming. However, restaurants, both chains and local small businesses, are having to adjust, especially as they are forced to become takeout-only establishments.

School closures around the country are another major impact. Beverage businesses such as bars, brewpubs, and coffee shops are temporarily suspending operations, sometimes at will and sometimes at the behest of local government regulation. In some states and provinces, liquor stores have been deemed as essential.

2. Supply Chain Challenges

Supply chain impacts in the United States and Canada have been minimal. However, that may change, especially as trucking availability is affected in hard-hit areas. There is also an impact for companies that may import ingredients or packaging from other geographies. Many growers are heading into the planting season which may be affected as well. With seasonal workforce disruption, there could be other supply chain issues coming around the corner. All these changes mean food and beverage companies need to take steps to adjust to changing supply and demand.

3. Long-Term Economic Conditions

Food businesses are facing long-term uncertainty of a likely recession. At the same time, companies are increasing wages to workers and providing more benefits, such as paid sick leave, to those workers on the front lines. US and Canadian governments have introduced legislation to help those industries and individuals affected by the pandemic. These regulations are ever evolving to meet the changing market conditions.

Grocery worker holding an orange pepper.

Demand for produce has grown in early 2020, due in part to the COVID-19 crisis.

4. Regulatory Easing

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in mid-March halted foreign and domestic inspections, instructing most employees to work from home. The agency noted it was exploring alternate inspection strategies, including evaluating records in place of onsite inspections. In Canada, the federal government is offering increased flexibility to farmers and allowing foreign workers to enter Canada even though there are border restrictions. Canada will also ensure supply chain integrity by continuing to allow the movement of agri-food products across the border even through there are strict border crossing regulations in place.

5. Dairy, Produce Remain Strong

Retail demand is strong for the dairy industry, despite school closings. Demand in China, the largest importer of U.S. dairy products, is down about 30 percent. In Canada, the dairy supply is expected to remain largely unaffected by COVID-19 which is good news for the US, a major importer of Canadian Dairy products.

Produce demand has seen an uptick, especially as customers seek products high in vitamin C. Sales are increasing across channels, including online, retail and grocery delivery.

Technology Solutions in the COVID-19 Era

The dramatic volatility facing the industry is unlike anything experienced in modern times. That uncertainty is one of the core reasons why enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions are so critical.

Sage X3 delivers predictability and precision for your food or beverage company.  Sage X3 food ERP delivers benefits across your enterprise, including:

  • Supply Chain Management. Manage inventory and stock levels while automating ordering and restocking. Gain transparency across the supply chain to identify bottlenecks and other issues early on.
  • Cost Reduction. Automate tasks, aggregate data, reduce data re-entry and gain insights from real-time reports, allowing your employees to focus on more productive work.
  • Process Improvement. Gain control and visibility throughout production cycles to provide consistent, quality products.
  • Quality Control. Warehouse management and quality control are integrated seamlessly. Track product lots, expiration dates, quantities recipes and movements in real-time, leading to less waste and reduced costs. In the event of a recall, use forward and backward traceability tools to manage incidents better.
  • Customer Service. Generate quotes, track progress and shipments, answer questions and track customer queries in real-time for better outcomes and retention.

NexTec is a proud Sage X3 partner, helping food and beverage companies navigate these uncertain times. Our Sage X3 solution is delivered by our in-house food and beverage industry experts – many of whom come from food and beverage manufacturers and are uniquely able to help you optimize your food ERP solution. See our list of food industry extensions for Sage X3.

Sage Platinum Reseller

Webcast: Sage X3 optimization strategies

Webcast: Sage X3 optimization strategies

By | Events, Sage X3, Upcoming Webcasts | No Comments

With the global pandemic affecting supply chains, many of our prospects and customers are using the downtime to optimize their operations to prepare for what comes next. Our team of ERP and manufacturing industry experts are available and are here to help. We have services tailored to identify process improvement and optimization opportunities in your organization, and to help drive the adoption of software features already in use.

Join our webcast to learn about the current optimization programs you can take advantage of that include:

Rapid optimization

Are you making use of every Sage X3 feature capable of adding value to your business? NexTec has rapid optimization services packages for the following features:

  • Supply Chain Modules (MRP/MPS)
  • Quality Control
  • Picking / Packing Advanced Features
  • Cycle Counting
  • Fixed Assets
  • Recurring Journals
  • Banking Automation
  • Cash Management

Documentation services

Documentation and document control is extremely important for any business, especially those that are heavily regulated. Is your documentation current and up to industry standards? Would more and better collateral help your company facilitate training? NexTec offers services to help with the following:

  • Standard Operating Procedures
  • Training Guides/Videos
  • Work Instructions
  • GMP or other regulatory compliance/validation documents
  • End user training documentation
  • Extended role-based release notes
  • Maintenance of or updates to existing documentation

Audit Services

NexTec offers system and business process audits to truly optimize your business. We can review your current processes in Sage X3 to fine tune your current ERP practices and plan future ways to take advantage of more functionality. We can also take a broader business or process level approach geared toward challenging conventional wisdom in an organization, including root cause analysis and continuous improvement methodology.

Let us help you optimize your business.

Registration Links

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

11:00 am – 12:00 pm PDT / 2:00 – 3:00 pm EDT

Register here

Thursday, April 16, 2020

11:00 am – 12:00 pm PDT / 2:00 – 3:00 pm EDT

Register here
Group of technicians working with chemicals.

8 Critical steps in choosing the right chemical industry ERP

By | Chemicals, ERP, Sage X3 | No Comments
Group of technicians working with chemicals.

A chemical ERP can help you remain competitive

The chemical industry’s regulations and requirements are about as volatile as the chemicals it produces. Companies face strict rules and procedures to follow that are enforced by governing agencies, and any instances of non-compliance can be costly to resolve.

To further complicate the process of doing business, chemical companies must not only be aware of the dangers of the chemicals they use, handle, and produce, but also the resulting impact on the environment, safe handling and shipping procedures, and long-term occupational risks and hazards to employees.

Because of the very nature of the chemical industry, choosing an ERP system to manage the unique intricacies requires firsthand expertise of the challenges and needs of the industry. Multiple layers of complexity must be taken into account when vetting solutions that can help companies manage product, personnel, and compliance needs alike.

The following steps can help to guide the selection process and gain the most value from your investment:

1. Review important chemical industry challenges

Because of the dangers and volatile nature of the chemical industry, manufacturers face many challenges not experienced by other industries. Aside from stringent health and safety requirements and compliance regulations, chemical producers must also contend with fluctuating fuel costs, power usage, equipment maintenance and replacement, operational costs, logistics, and other hurdles that can affect profit margins.

There are a myriad of moving parts to any chemical manufacturing business. Companies who are seeking a comprehensive solution to gain greater insight into operations will need to consider material management, finance and accounting, shipping and receiving, planning and production, customer service, sales, marketing, and company leadership roles, and understand how the ERP can cater to each of their needs in an efficient manner.

This is why it’s essential to choose an ERP that’s designed to help companies overcome these and other challenges. One size fits all systems aren’t designed to address the underlying needs of chemical companies, but rather general challenges experienced by all industries. In addition, the providers deploying a generic ERP may also lack the expertise and understanding required to help you successfully launch your ERP and provide ongoing support when needed.

2. Consult with key team members

Group of colleagues sitting around a table discussing information on a laptop.

Consider who will be using the ERP

ERP systems are often leveraged across the organization, which means that each user’s needs and priorities should be taken into account. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Company leadership
  • Development teams
  • Sales and marketing
  • Warehousing
  • Shipping and receiving
  • Transportation providers
  • Customer service representatives
  • Production teams
  • Materials management
  • Procurement
  • Financial and accounting personnel
  • Data management
  • IT department
  • Other parties in the supply chain

Determine who will benefit from a chemical industry ERP system and the data or other details they need to know to better perform their roles. For example, chemists can use ERP to accurately record and manage product formulas, while procurement departments can log the vendors and cost of each material used in the formula for easier ordering and improved financial records.

Also, it’s important to look at the ERP from a usability standpoint. Determine how each key team member will use the system, how long it takes to implement the solution, and the overall learning curve to confidently use the new system.

3. Conduct a scalability test

Will your ERP grow and change with your company?

There’s a lot more to choosing a chemical ERP system than being able to check all the boxes on your requirements list. You must also consider, to the best of your ability, long term needs, and business objectives. As your business grows and undergoes changes, your ERP should be designed to adapt to your company over time. Otherwise, you may find yourself going through the exploration and comparison process all over again (and spending more than you really need to in the process!).

Not all ERP systems offer the same level of scalability and flexibility, though it’s becoming more common to adapt ERP systems to future needs. If you believe you might outgrow your ERP in the next five to 10 years, it’s best to continue exploring options. A “bad” ERP may end up preventing your growth instead of supporting it.

4. Determine the need for third-party integrations

Group of people holding gears.

Will your ERP need third party integrations?

Part of an ERP system’s flexibility lies in the ability to customize the system to your unique needs. As a general rule, chemical ERPs are designed specifically for the industry, yet there may be many instances where companies will need greater control over how their ERP looks and functions.

A lack of or limit on customization is a major obstacle you’ll be glad to avoid. Companies who discover that they can’t customize a certain feature are often forced to turn to third party integrations to perform a task or function.

While this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, consider that too many integrations and workarounds can often bog down processes and muddy your system. And when one workaround no longer works, you’re forced to integrate additional solutions that only make your system more complex.

In addition, too many “bolt-ons” can lead to confusion when new team members are brought on board, particularly in the IT department that’s tasked to help manage and maintain the system.

Though there is no magic number as far as integrations, it’s important to consider ahead of time the ERP’s flexibility (or lack thereof) and understand how it might impact your system and total cost of ownership over time.

5. Investigate Product Support

Smiling woman with a headset on.

Ongoing support can give you greater peace of mind

All ERP systems come with some level of product support, but this can vary widely by platform and provider. Implementation is only the beginning when dealing with an enterprise-wide system like ERP. Aside from the initial launch, you may also require ongoing help and support during onboarding, as well as when training new employees, making major updates to the system, and changing as your business grows or adapts to changes in the marketplace.

In addition, you should consider the way in which support is delivered. Some vendors may provide limited free support via phone, or direct you to an online knowledge base or FAQ for answers to your questions. Others may offer paid support packages that provide phone and chat services for a fixed monthly fee. This is something that should be considered in your overall cost of ownership (more on this in Step 7) to ensure the ERP fits within your budget requirements.

6. Check technology requirements

Will you deploy an on-premise ERP or take advantage of cloud technology (or even explore a hybrid model)? Do you have an on-site IT team that can create and manage the infrastructure required to operate your ERP? Is your internet connection strong enough to support a cloud-based solution? Will you provide mobile devices to your employees who need mobile ERP access?

The technology requirements can have a lot to do with the ERP solution you implement, especially when it comes to investing in infrastructure and devices. There is no single best solution when it comes to hosting, as what works for one company may not work for another. Consider the technology requirements and their associated costs when weighing your options to stay on task and on budget.

7. Consider long term costs

It’s easy to consider only the upfront costs of your chemical ERP, but as with all major business purchases, it’s important to also consider long term expenses. Aside from the initial investment, chemical companies will also be tasked with maintaining the ERP system, costs of implementing changes as you grow, upgrading technology requirements, and training and onboarding for new employees.

As a rule, your ERP should be set up to reflect your long term business objectives. As your processes and operations evolve, your system and vendor should be able to evolve with you to continue delivering on your objectives.

8. Add the mobile aspect

As the Bring Your Own Device movement gains steam, adding the mobile aspect to your ERP is worth considering. Not employees need to be chained to a desk to conduct business (particularly in outside sales and logistics), so giving them the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere can help to boost productivity, improve morale, and better serve your customers.

ERP dashboards are becoming increasingly mobile friendly, with many solutions offering apps specifically designed for mobile devices. Key employees can collect data while in the field without having to perform double data entry upon returning to the office. This can also reduce the potential for errors and allow employees to better utilize their time.

How to create better opportunities with the right chemical ERP

ERP

What’s the best ERP system for your chemical company?

The right ERP system can be a central anchor point for your entire organization, helping to turn chaos into control and breaking down the dreaded silos that plague productivity and collaboration.

And even with a chemical ERP made to address the unique challenges and needs of the industry, requirements can still vary by company. As a leading Sage X3 vendor, NexTec can provide guidance and insight on selecting the right ERP for your business. Our goal isn’t just to implement an ERP, but also help you discover the best system to streamline processes, build efficiency into your operations, and benefit all users within your organization — all within your budget.

See how NexTec can tailor your Sage X3 to your needs.

Sage Platinum Reseller

Google Chrome 80 and Synchronous XHR with Sage X3

By | Sage X3 | No Comments

On Feb 24, 2020, Version 80 of Google Chrome was released. For more information about this update see the official Google release article.

Users working with Sage X3 in the Chrome 80 browser will find that, when a Classic session is closed directly in the browser (clicking X in the top right of the Chrome browser), the Classic session is not terminated at the server end. This may cause a record to lock, if the same user, or another user, attempts to access the record that was being edited in the original session and was closed incorrectly. The cause is a change in Chrome 80 and onwards that disallows “Synchronous XHR during page dismissal”

Sage X3 will be releasing fixes to this issue in the following Syracuse releases:

  • Syracuse server version 12.6.0
  • Syracuse server version 11.20
  • Syracuse server version 9.20.0

In the meantime, each end-user of Sage X3 can temporarily re-enable the Synchronous XHR during page dismissal feature by opting out of that piece of the update. Please refer to the steps below to find out what version of Google Chrome you are on and how to opt-out of the change.

If you are using a browser other than Google Chrome (Microsoft Edge, Mozilla FireFox, etc.) there is no action you need to take.

To find your version of Chrome

  1. Click the Settings Ellipsis (the three dots in the upper-left corner of the browser.)

  2. Click Help and then select About Google Chrome

  3. Your version will be displayed

Temporarily opt out of the deprecated synchronous XHR during page dismissal

To temporarily opt out of the deprecated synchronous XHR during page dismissal, follow these steps:

  1. Click https://developers.chrome.com/origintrials/#/trials/active
  2. Click Allow Sync XHR in Page Dismissal


  3. Click Learn More to read over the relevant information pertaining to the opt-out trial.

Opt out and allow Synchronous HHR during page dismissal

For your end-user to opt-out, and allow the Synchronous XHR during page dismissal feature, they need to follow these steps:

  1. In your browser address bar, type chrome://flags
  2. In the Search box at the top type of the screen, type #allow-sync-XHR-in-page-dismissal
  3. Change the setting from Default to Enabled
  4. Log out of Sage X3 and close all instances of your Google Chrome browser before logging back into Sage X3

If you have any questions on this or would like to discuss the implications for your particular environment, please don’t hesitate to reach out via Basecamp to the NexTec Sage X3 Support Team or contact your NexTec Project Manager.

Upcoming Microsoft LDAP Security Update with Sage X3

By | Sage X3 | No Comments

A Windows Security Update from Microsoft will be available in March 2020 that will enable LDAP channel binding and LDAP signing hardening for Active Directory. For more information about this update, see the Official Microsoft Announcement.

Sage X3 environments configured to connect to Active Directory with LDAPS for user authentication or synchronization will continue to work normally. However, Sage X3 environments configured to connect to Active Directory with simple LDAP binding will encounter the following error once the security update is in effect:

Connection error: StrongAuthRequiredError: 00002028: LdapErr: DSID-0C090200, comment: The server requires binds to turn on integrity checking if SSL\TLS are not already active on the connection, data 0, v3839

For supported Sage X3 versions (U9, V11, V12), updating the Sage X3 configuration to use LDAPS instead of LDAP will avoid this error.

Here are the steps to change from LDAP to LDAPS:

    1. Obtain the Active Directory CA Certificate. For example, from the host holding the ADCS role open the Certificates Snap-in in the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), and then export the AD CA certificate from Personal/Certificates of the local computer.
    2. The certificate must be in Base64 format and not contain the private key.
    3. In Sage X3, go to Administration > Administration > Certificates > Certificates of Certification Authorities
    4. Select Actions > New CA Certificate
    5. Enter a name, description and upload the CA certificate exported previously
    6. Select Actions > Save
    7. Go to Administration > Administration > Authentication > LDAP Servers
    8. Click on the connection to edit
    9. Select Actions > Edit
    10. Set the correct protocol (LDAPS) and Port (636 or 3269) in the URL
    11. Click on the looking glass icon under CA Certificates of LDAP server for TLS
    12. Select the CA Certificate created previously, and then click OK
    13. Select Actions > Save
    14. Select Actions > Connection Test, and make sure it says Connection OK

For unsupported Sage X3 versions with LDAPS functionality (between V7P11 and U9), we advise to set up a test environment to check the compatibility of Sage X3 and the new security parameters described in the Microsoft announcement.

Sage X3 versions prior to V7P11 do not support LDAPS. In this case, the only way to keep Sage X3 connected to Active Directory will be to configure the new security parameters described in the Microsoft announcement back to their previous values. This is not recommended and we encourage you to upgrade to a more recent Sage X3 version instead.

If you have any questions on this or would like to discuss the implications for your particular environment, please don’t hesitate to use Basecamp to reach out to the NexTec Sage X3 Support Team or contact your NexTec Project Manager.

Data breaches: Are you ready to handle them this year?

By | Acumatica Cloud ERP | No Comments
Data breaches 2020

Cybersecurity challenges are nothing new, but as threats evolve, systems become more complex, and people (and things) become more connected, the stakes continue to rise.

2020 is in full swing and it’s time for us all to look back at some lessons learned from 2019.  As always, cybersecurity is still atop the list of company concerns. Though the threats, risks, and costs may evolve, it’s always important to reiterate just what challenges exist and discuss tips on how to address them.

2019 in review: Breaches bigger and more costly than ever.

Cybersecurity challenges are nothing new, but as threats evolve, systems become more complex, and people (and things) become more connected, the stakes continue to rise.

Costs are rising too.

In their annual Cost of a Data Breach report, IBM Security and Ponemon Institute found that both in the short and long-run, breaches could cripple a business.

In the United States, the average cost of a data breach hit $242 per record, taking 245 days to identify and contain and increasing from $7.91 million in 2018 to $8.19 million in 2019. These events often take years to recover from and result in lost business, damaged reputation, and potential legal consequences.

What can you learn for 2020?

While the numbers look scary the reality is that you can take steps to mitigate these risks. The first step is not to ignore the risk or think your company is immune. With 2020 now upon us, here are a few things you should know.

Know how they happen.

Luckily, if you understand how and why breaches happen, you can also work to shore up defenses. Breaches occur for a variety of reasons ranging from outside threats to accidental releases to trusted insiders.

The known threat: Hackers

It may come as no surprise that hacking takes the top spot for breach type—actors outside the organization are responsible for 87% of the breaches reported. Often targeted to get the most valuable information, hacks are fueled by financial motivations, in which these actors can sell the data on the dark web or ransom it back to the owner.

As the information is highly prized (i.e. a Social Security or credit card number is worth more than an email address or name), the information is targeted at a higher rate and is much more damaging to lose.

The data giveaway: Accidental exposure

However, it’s not the only way records are exposed. In fact, hacks only account for around 14 percent of the number of records lost. The top culprit for this? Accidental exposure of data on the Internet. According to Risk Based Security, over 6 billion records have been made freely accessible thanks to misconfigured databases, backups, end points, and services. While companies do incredible amounts of work to stop hackers, most information is just given away.

The trusted threat: Malicious insiders

But that’s not all. 7.3% of the breaches are caused by malicious insiders. Like hackers, these individuals have motive, means, and opportunity. They also have fewer barriers to entry. Misconfigured user permissions may give the wrong person access to information, lax practices may make it easy for a malicious insider to extract a password, and poor authentication practices may allow him or her to login without trouble.

Understand how they could affect you.

There are many ways that information ends up in the wrong hands, but the end result is reasonably straightforward: You lose money and your reputation is damaged.

Lost business: The biggest contributor to costs.

According to IBM, the loss of customer trust had serious financial consequences for the companies studied, and lost business was the largest of four major cost categories that contributed to the total cost of a data breach, responsible for abnormal customer turnover of 3.9 percent.

Long tail costs: Costs continue for years.

Once the 242 days are done, the costs continue—especially for those in regulated environments like healthcare and finance, two of the most frequently targeted sectors. While an average of 67 percent of breach costs came in the first year, 22 percent accrued in the second year after a breach, and 11 percent of costs occurred more than two years after a breach.

Learn how to deal with risks.

There are four primary ways of dealing with risk: avoid, mitigate, accept, or transfer.

Choose the right partner

While there are many factors that contribute to the cost of a data breach, some of the biggest drivers included third-party involvement and extensive cloud migration. However, this is no indictment of third-party providers or the cloud—most cloud providers do things better than you can. In this, the right partner matters.

Before taking on any cloud project or working with an implementation partner, it pays to ensure they are taking steps to protect you. Learn what you should look for from your provider and implementation partner, get to know what questions you should ask, and read about how to protect yourself from unscrupulous vendors here.

Address complexity

Another of the top five cost drivers? System complexity. When systems start to work individually and reach out in all directions, it’s much harder to know which one is the problem.

In today’s IT environment, complexity is easier to handle than ever. Applications can connect using secure APIs—not hand-coded ones that increase risk.

Automate and augment your security

According to IBM, organizations that had deployed automated security solutions that reduce the need for direct human intervention – including the use of security solutions with artificial intelligence, machine learning, analytics, and automated incident response orchestration – saw significantly lower costs after experiencing a data breach.

AI is the next frontier for security (not to mention the rest of the business). Get to know what it means for finance.

Setting yourself up for success: NexTec delivers.

Business threats are evolving, but with the right tools and advice, companies can overcome them and thrive. NexTec has been in the business of delivering both, implementing products that make your business better and advising clients on what matters.

For over a quarter century, we’ve seen the technology world evolve and can help you select, implement, and use the right Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), or Business Intelligence (BI) solutions for your organization. Let’s get in touch.

The implementation process: Staying organized, motivated, and on path

By | Acumatica Cloud ERP, ERP, Replace old software | No Comments
ERP implementation process

Completing an ERP implementation project requires you to stay organized, keep your people motivated, and ensure the project stays on path. Here are a few tips to make that happen.

So you’ve made it to the final stages of your ERP journey—you’re just an implementation project and a go-live away from a business management solution able to facilitate your next decade or more of growth.

After realizing that your outdated or entry-level solution can no longer meet your needs, communicating the change, securing buy-in, and completing a vendor analysis, you’ve selected a solution and partner and are now entering the home stretch. Congratulations, after months of planning your move beyond QuickBooks, this long journey is coming to its conclusion.

However, if you’ve ever completed an endurance sport, you know that there’s a big difference between ‘almost finished’ and ‘completed.’

The same goes for your ERP implementation. You’ve gotten so far—why stop now? It’s time to buckle down and make it to the finish line.

Will there be a bit of a headwind or a couple hills? Yes. However, you’ve prepared for this and understand that even if an ERP implementation may not be “easy,” it can be manageable. Plus, if you’ve followed our advice, you’ve chosen a partner who has done this many times before.

The home stretch: Getting from implementation to go live.

As the title of our article implies, completing an ERP implementation project requires you to stay organized, keep your people motivated, and ensure the project stays on path. Here are a few tips to make that happen.

Planning for the process

Before completing an endurance race, you’re going to at least look at the map. Should you conserve energy for a big climb? Is there a stretch heading southeast in which you can expect a bit of sweet, sweet tailwind? At which mile markers should you break out your energy gel? Are you aiming for simply completing the race or are you going for time?

The same goes for your implementation. Prior to starting, you will work with your partner to determine which type of implementation project you will need, discuss your vision, needs, and project scope before writing up an implementation strategy. During this phase, you will discuss more about how your business works and work with your partner to establish timelines, benchmarks, and goals.

Maintain pace

You’ve planned for the hills. You’ve set a goal time. Now you have to follow your plan. When completing an endurance event, it’s important to stay focused on the finish line. But the old adage, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” exists for a reason. It’s imperative that you maintain a pace that allows you to get to the end.

The planning process tells you a timeline. Project management is what gets you to the end. Project management is all about comparing the progress made against the original plan and thereby updating the plan.” To accomplish this, assembling a Project Management Team to guide the project from beginning to end is necessary.

This team includes an executive sponsor, a person high on your organizational hierarchy who is there to discuss expectations, answer questions, settle disputes, and keep spirits high. It also includes a project leader, someone who is knowledgeable about your business, has previous management experience, and can communicate clearly. This person is also in charge of setting team member responsibilities and keeping people on task within your organization.

Stay organized

When you make the move to implement ERP it’s easy to get distracted. Maybe you start to thinkof adding more nice-to-have features. Is it doable? Of course—today’s ERP is customizable, and your partner will be glad to take on the additional work.

However, you need to know each addition will shift the timeline and ‘additional work’ means more billable hours to build the product to your new needs. It’s much cheaper and much less risky to discuss every element before the project starts.

Keep your spirits up

Getting to the finish line is hard. There will be trying times and frustrating moments in both implementation projects and endurance races. Keeping spirits high throughout the process can help you get through. For ERP implementations, this means effective communication.

If you’ve followed our series, you know that proper communication prior to implementation helped you document your needs and instill a sense of ownership among the employees who will be affected most. However, now you need to expand this communication across the organization.

It’s also important to note that communicating exactly what is happening, why it’s happening, and when it’s happening throughout the process will keep everyone in the loop and mitigate the anxiety ERP implementations can bring.

Surprises can be both good and bad. If your employees – the end users – understand from the beginning that adopting ERP technology is a business initiative and strategy and not just a new software package or an IT project, then they are more likely to support the entire process.

The journey to ERP starts with the right advice

Since 1994, NexTec Group has been in the business of software, and as a leading reseller of Acumatica, we have helped customers just like you to realize the benefits of the product and implement the solution without any hiccups. Get to know more about our work herefind your local office, and contact us for a free consultation.

A single version of the truth: Why today’s CFO can’t waste the next decade herding reports

By | Acumatica Cloud ERP, Dashboards and KPIs, ERP | No Comments
CFOs real time numbers

Today’s CFO can’t wait days for an “accurate” report—information needs to be accessible today and it needs to be infallible.

The term ‘herding cats’ has long been used in the management world to denote the futile attempt to control or organize a class of entities which are inherently uncontrollable. Have you ever tried to get one unwilling cat into its carrier? Now multiply that by hundreds.

It’s entertaining to think about, and is why the “Cat Herders” ad still appears on the list of most memorable “Big Game” advertisements two decades later. However, the phrase still holds true: some things are harder to control than others—especially when put into large, dispersed groups.

For today’s CFO, the roles may change, but some remain the same.

As we discussed in our last blog, today’s CFO has a more important, diverse, and exciting role than he or she did even a decade ago. Knowing this, even as the role evolves from ‘head number cruncher’ to core influencer and organizational catalyst, some of the responsibilities remain. It’s still on you to build a financially sound strategy built on historical data, current results, and projections.

However, say you’re trying to build out the budget for 2020 right now. How would you define the process of sifting through email chains and watching your team trying to piece together reports? Is everyone on the same page? How long will it take to complete, how accurate is the information, and if there is a disparity, how can you find out whose information is right? Is it akin to herding a certain feline?

The speed of business is increasing, and opportunities pop up and fall by the wayside faster than ever. Today’s CFO can’t wait days for an “accurate” report—information needs to be accessible today and it needs to be infallible.

Centralize your system, see changes in real time, and take charge of your strategy

Now more than ever, CFOs are expected to have real-time numbers at their fingertips. In fact, they must also be able to generate reports and offer their insights on that data in near real-time, as well.

The key is to have the flexibility to access the data you need from your ERP database in whatever manner is most convenient to you—whether it be for export to an Excel file, as a graphical display on your dashboard, as part of a report, or even as data that will be passed to another application for more analysis.

The right ERP system can deliver this, empowering organizational leaders to understand where the business was, is, and will be. Armed with the right ERP system and analytical tools, you can get to your data and make sense of it, giving your organization the insights it needs to not only survive, but to thrive.

Ready to learn more? We invite you to download two free guides from our friends at Acumatica: Top technology challenges for the modern CFO and cloud ERP buyer’s guide for the modern CFO.

Few solutions provide today’s CFOs with the flexibility and adaptability they need as well as Acumatica, and as a leading Acumatica Partner, we can help you on your journey to this powerful software. Let’s get in touch.

ERP

6 Reasons CRM-ERP integration should be on your 2020 radar

By | CRM, ERP, Salesforce | No Comments
ERP.

Integrated ERP and CRM functionality gives your business complete insights into customers and their interactions with your company.

In 2020, successful businesses see the importance of integrating operational technology like enterprise resource planning (ERP) software with customer relationship management (CRM) tools.

Together, CRM and ERP technologies help deliver more efficiency, customer insights and collaboration.

CRM and ERP solutions help businesses manage core components of their enterprise. CRM products such as Salesforce manage sales, marketing and customer service functions by storing contacts’ information, responses to marketing campaigns, sales cadence outreach and customer inquiries.

ERP products provide a single source of truth – data – for core operational areas including finance, human resources, supply chain, operations and distribution.

Yet it’s when the two core software solutions are integrated that organizations can fully optimize their functionality and connectivity.

Here are the top reasons CRM and ERP integration should be on your 2020 radar.

1. Better customer experiences

Today’s customers have multifaceted relationships with your organization. Integrated ERP and CRM solutions remove the silos that plague many organizations that keep customer information in systems. Salespeople and customer service professionals, for example, might be unaware of queries about billing and delivery. With a 360-degree approach to the customer, data entered into one platform is visible in the other, synchronized automatically with no data loss or reentry. Shared data – from delivery dates to contact reports – improve the collective customer relationship.

2. Shared insights

Perspective matters in business. Harness the capabilities of multiple perspectives on information entered from multiple vantage points for better decisions. Give your employees access to more information with more details and more relevance. At every level, managers will have a clearer picture of what is happening within the company.

3. Streamlined business processes

With a single source of information, more business processes can be automated, more information can be used to compile reports and dashboards, and there is less risk of human error from manual entry.

Person pointing to people icons.

When CRM and ERP technologies are integrated, managers can gain deeper insights into sales outreach and marketing campaigns.

4. Faster business cycles

Imagine what your business could do with faster business cycles from pitch to payment. With integrated CRM-ERP solutions, your business reduced the length of business cycles, with lines blurred between “front office” and “back office.” Automate functionality, approvals and routing for faster sign-offs and resolution. Your business will become more agile and productive.

5. Real intelligence in real-time

Data analytics today can do far more than report on past performance. Today’s business intelligence tools can use data from CRM and ERP software to do more accurate predictive modeling and develop tools that recommend solutions.

6. Seamless employee management

Business leaders need to know the progress of sales outreach to plan production, manage supply chain and anticipate hiring. If customer data is in multiple systems, your company loses time, information and, potentially, relationships. Incorporating a CRM into your technology stack brings cohesion to staff and customer management. A CRM coupled with your ERP lets you develop and use better sales processes, manage leads and report on outcomes.

At NexTec, we help companies integrate Salesforce CRM solutions with ERP software.

Learn More About CRM and your ERP solution from the experts in business software selection and optimization at NexTec.

Outgrowing QuickBooks: Training employees, going live, and using a new ERP solution

By | Acumatica Cloud ERP, ERP, Replace old software | No Comments
outgrowing quickbooks training

Based on the scope of your project, you’ll work with your partner to develop an implementation project plan for your project team.

It’s been a journey. But at long last, it’s coming to an end. It may feel a bit hectic at the moment, but the finish line—your ERP go-live date—is in sight. One last hill to get over and you can officially say that your company has completed the ERP implementation marathon and has a solution able to facilitate years of growth.

The path to ERP: A recap of our outgrowing QuickBooks series.

Before getting into the final steps—training, the go-live, and the ongoing use—we invite you to read the entire series:

  • Realizing that it’s time to make a change: This article explores the first steps you should take when your long-trusted QuickBooks application starts to show wear and tear, and answers how to tell that your business is ready for fully functional ERP.
  • Communicating a change: If you’ve used QuickBooks for years, convincing users that it’s time for an upgrade may present challenges, but by talking with users, you can allay fears and understand what users want and need.
  • Determining and documenting your needs: Getting from communication to decision requires you to know what you need. In this article, we explore how to determine where you are, outline a project strategy, and decide on what features you will use.
  • Securing executive commitment: ERP is a big investment, and getting your C-suite on board for a move from an ‘incredibly affordable’ product to a much needed one could require a bit of convincing. We explore some key talking points and tactics.
  • Completing an ROI and vendor analysis: An ROI analysis identifies both direct and indirect benefits of an upgrade to determine if you can afford a move, how quickly a move will pay off, and how much the investment will generate over its life.
  • Finalizing your software decision and selecting an implementation partner: Getting from numbers to decision requires an innate understanding of how each product will affect employees. This article answers how to get from shortlist to selection.
  • Getting through the implementation process: With the decision made, the final step in this marathon is often the hardest. In this, we explore the steps to complete an implementation and the best practices to get to where you are today.

Training your employees

Based on the scope of your project, you’ll work with your partner to develop an implementation project plan for your project team. During this phase, you’ll develop a training plan alongside the implementation plan.

As the go-live date approaches, the training process begins. Depending on the tech-savviness of your team, the preferences and learning styles, and the budget, you will have a variety of options available including but not limited to:

  • On-site/face-to-face: The most customizable, hands-on, and flexible training, face-to-face is structured around the learning styles of your employees.
  • Classroom: Like it sounds, in-person classroom training can work for the right people, in which a trainer can educate your employees in groups.
  • ELearning: Likely the most cost-effective training method, eLearning can range from videos to learning paths or online classrooms.
  • Train the trainer: A final step in which users demonstrate their knowledge by showing a trainer how to use the software.

An ERP deployment may be the most intense IT project your company ever undergoes, and at times it can be overwhelming. Be sure to allocate plenty of time for training and prepare for the associated costs.

Added to this, many ERP vendors offer free ‘open university’ programs where users can learn the basics at their own pace.

Preparing for go-live

The culmination of your ERP implementation project is when you “go live” and actually start using the system to support day-to-day operations. This is the day (or process) the product is ready for use. Data is converted, users are trained, tests are completed, and your IT team is ready for a vacation. How do you intend to get from theory to reality? With the help of your implementation partner, you will choose an option that works for your company, often one of these three:

  • The Big Bang: Your employees walk out Friday and your IT team gets to work. Walk in Monday, and everything is new. This is the “big bang” go-live, and it’s perfect with the right preparation, training, and alignment.
  • The phased roll out: Changeover occurs in phases over an extended period of time. Users move onto new system in a series of steps. While it avoids the risk and system shock by replacing one big bang with a series of small ones, it also creates an environment where you’re trying to work with two different systems.
  • The parallel operation: Both the legacy and new system run at the same time. Users learn the new system while working on the old. While low risk, it’s also the most labor intensive—approximately twice the work. As a result, neither system will get the proper attention.

Using, maintaining, and expanding your system

With day one out of the way, you’ve done it. Users will begin to get more comfortable with the software, operate faster and more accurately, and hopefully realize that they have a few more hours each week.

If everything was done properly, you will begin to recognize value quickly. However, you can’t rest on your laurels, in today’s world of technology, new products, new techniques, and new business processes are emerging at a breakneck pace. Most vendors will introduce functionality twice per year, and if you feel something is missing, you should remain active on the boards to request functionality.

In addition, we recommend the following:

  • Keep your software up to date: Internally, be sure your system remains up-to-date with new applications, new capabilities, and new “releases” that the developer will issue on a regular basis (or will be continually released in some cases) to make sure that your system continues to grow and adapt to changing needs.
  • Expand when needed: As discussed in previous blogs, ERP is flexible. In fact, it’s one of the selling points and the reason we recommended you don’t need everything on day one. As your business grows, you can easily add more functionality.
  • Keep employees in the know: Your system changes, but so do your people. There is a continuing need for user training and education – think of it as CPA’s CEU requirements – to enhance skills and understanding, prepare users to exploit and benefit from new functionality or new responsibilities, and continue to expand the utility and benefits from your new ERP system.

Your ERP partner: NexTec

Whether you’ve been anxiously awaiting each new installment of our implementation series or stumbled upon this article, know this: the ERP implementation process is complex and it pays to have a partner who has been there and done that.

Since 1994, NexTec Group has been in the business of software, and as a leading reseller of Acumatica, we have helped customers just like you to realize the benefits of the product and implement the solution without any hiccups. Get to know more about our work herefind your local office, and contact us for a free consultation.